Developed in partnership with Peak District-based bushcraft and survival school Woodland Ways, this unusual smock is a core piece in Scottish brand Keela’s Heritage range. It employs British-sourced fabrics in the form of heavyweight Harris Tweed and Millerain Stay Wax Cotton panels. This results in a classic look and feel, which works in perfect harmony with the timeless smock pattern design.
What Is The Harris Tweed Smock Best Suited To?
It’s a supremely well-made garment that will appeal to campers, bushcraft enthusiasts and any other outdoorsy types who prefer the look and feel of natural fabrics to new-fangled modern synthetics. It’s also a real investment piece – one that not only ought to last for many years but will also get better with age as it gets worn-in.
It’s certainly no lightweight – this isn’t a packable, ultralight layer for backpacking or long-distance walking. But for weekends in the woods or low-impact camping trips, it would be the perfect warm, weather-resistant top.
There are a multitude of British brands in the outdoor industry: Mountain Equipment, Montane, Berghaus, Rab, Paramo, Craghoppers, Alpkit, Sprayway, Rohan, Vango… the list goes on. But comparatively few of these companies actually manufacture anything in the UK.
This smock, however, is lovingly made at Keela’s Scottish HQ using materials sourced close to home – namely, Harris Tweed from the Hebrides and British Millerain waxed cotton from Lancashire. As well as showcasing a long and proud heritage of British fabrics and British textile manufacturing, this also gives the garment a commendably low carbon footprint.
Construction and Performance
Wool has long been known for its remarkable properties, which is why it has been used in clothing for centuries. In fact, it wouldn’t be a push to call woollen garments nature’s own performance fabric, since they offer good UV protection, naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, good warmth (even when wet), temperature regulation and long-term durability. This smock is made from Harris Tweed, i.e. heavyweight 100% virgin wool, and so boasts all of these qualities. In addition, the waxed cotton panels across the shoulder yoke add extra water-resistance and durability – ideal if you’re lugging a haversack full of vintage camping gear.
This is also a great layer for evenings around the campfire, since wool is more fire resistant than cotton and most synthetic fibres. It has a lower rate of flame spread, a lower rate of heat release, a lower heat of combustion, does not melt or drip and forms a char that is insulating and self-extinguishing. Or to put it another way, if you catch a flying spark from the fire, you won’t go up in flames. Reassuring.
In terms of features, you get a stand-up collar with a chunky three-button chest placket, side vents for improved freedom of movement and better coverage when sitting in camp, two buttoned chest pockets and a slim arm pocket (into which you could easily slip a pen or pocket-knife), a scooped tail, button cuffs, and – an unusual addition – a loop to enable you to keep a fire steel handy, just in case.
The fit is fairly relaxed, and if you hover between sizes, we’d recommend sizing down. It’s a heavy and warm layer that works well with a long-sleeved baselayer underneath, ideal for chilly days from spring through to autumn. It isn’t as windproof as you might expect, especially in exposed locations, but in the shelter of a campsite it kept us very toasty indeed.
One of the more unusual bits of kit we’ve tested here at Outdoors Magic, the Keela Harris Tweed Smock is perhaps not for everyone. There’s little here that is likely to appeal to hardened mountaineers or ultralight backpackers. But if you’re a keen bushcrafter or camper, it’s hard not to be won over by this smock’s timeless looks, classic appeal and genuine Made-in-Britain credentials. We approve.
Keela Harris Tweed Smock | Review
This lovely if rather unusual garment is the first item from Keela’s new Heritage range. As the name says it’s made from genuine Harris Tweed woven in the Western Isles with British Millerain Stay Wax Cotton panels on the shoulders and lower sleeves for abrasion resistance. It has a loose fit – I can easily wear the Medium size over a thick fleece (though it would have to be very cold before I’d need to do so). There are two button-closed roomy pockets on the chest. The neck opening and cuffs also fasten with buttons. No zips or Velcro on this top. There’s a pen slot on one sleeve and a loop for a fire steel in one pocket. The stand-up collar and cuffs are lined with cotton, necessary as the tweed is a bit itchy. I certainly wouldn’t want to wear this over a short-sleeved top.
The Bush Smock is water and wind- resistant. I wore it on a breezy day with light rain falling and it kept me dry. I did notice the wind cutting through it when out in the open though. The smock is surprisingly warm. In temperatures only a few degrees above freezing it kept me warm worn over a light base layer. It’s not that light for the warmth however as it weighs 765 grams. It’s quite bulky when rolled up too. This is a garment for wearing all day not carrying in the pack.
Designed in conjunction with bushcraft company Woodland Ways the smock isn’t really aimed at hillwalkers and backpackers, though it could be used by both. For low level walks it’s excellent and if you’re lighting camp fires the fabrics are fire resistant. The look is very different to that of modern designs and synthetic fabrics too. I like it very much.
Hot because: It's a classic style and there aren't many of them. Until its full release in Spring 2016 it will only be available in very limited numbers. Of course, the retro country look won't appeal to everybody.
But know this: the authentic Harris Tweed (sustainable, fire-resistant, warm) and British Millerain Stay Wax Cotton (strongly abrasion-resistant, water-resistant) combine to create a feel to this garment that you just don't get with most modern gear.
It's not the sort of layer you'll take with you on every hill trip (it's quite heavy); but once in a while you might just find yourself hankering for some hobnail boots, a length of hemp rope and a trip to the fells to give this woven slice of yesteryear an outing.
We say: It won't be to everyone's tastes, but it's a beautifully made item of exceptional quality.
For the fashionistas out there this is the garment for you. Harris tweed is really en vogue just now, it’s not uncommon to see it featured on the catwalks of London, New York or Milan. Let’s not forget why Harris tweed has passed the test of time, it’s warm, it acts as a barrier against the wind and has a natural water repellency. I must admit I’ve only worn this garment out “in the field” on a handful of occasions. Why? Because it’s too lovely to get dirty! I’ve worn it in our red squirrel hide and when I’m out photographing dolphins. It’s my garment of choice when I’m traveling around the country giving talks and lectures; not maybe what it’s designed for but as I said earlier this is a beautiful garment and is almost too good to be subjected to the wilds. BTW. This would make a fabulous gift for someone that wants a practical but fashionable top… Not long until Christmas!
Still Loving My Keela Clothing! - Andy Howard Nature Photography